Seven members of the White Rock Tritons keep their distance as they stretch prior to a practice Tuesday evening at South Surrey Athletic Park. The on-field session was the team's first as a group since March. (Contributed photo)

2020: The year that sidelined (most) sports on the Semiahmoo Peninsula

Even in a largely forgettable year in sports, there were things worth celebrating

If you watch a football game on television, it’s likely that at some point, the game clock becomes part of the narrative, if even for just a minute.

A penalty negates a play, and the referee asks, via his lapel microphone, that the clock to be backed up by a few seconds.

Or, the coach of the losing team is criticized by broadcasters – and of course, the waiting mob on social media – for what’s referred to as poor clock management; essentially, for misusing timeouts which, if called correctly, could have provided extra time for his team to stage a comeback.

In both cases, the point is the same: we need more time.

In real life, however, you won’t find too many people who feel that way, as we sit here with just a few hours left in the year.

More of this year? No, thank you. Don’t wind the clock back – let it tick down to zero. Hit the showers, 2020. You’re done.

And for the most part, we’re done with it, too, because let’s face it, due to COVID-19, this wasn’t exactly a banner year for sports, locally or abroad.

The pandemic – which, it’s worth noting, is far from over, even with some vaccine-induced light at the end of the tunnel – wreaked havoc on the sports world, cancelling or postponing basically every major sporting event on the calendar beginning in March.

Provincial high-school championships – from track-and-field to rugby? Cancelled.

The popular Tour de White Rock – and the entire BC Superweek series of which it is a part? Not so fast.

The Canada Cup international softball tournament? No go.

Even the Summer Olympics in Japan – which were to feature a plethora of Surrey and White Rock athletes as softball made its triumphant return to the world stage after a dozen years on the sidelines – were pushed ahead to 2021, as the pandemic raged through the spring.

Like Brooklyn Dodgers fans famously said in the 1950s: “Wait ‘til next year.”

• READ ALSO: White Rock/South Surrey softball players stay positive amid Olympic postponement

A sad reality, sure, to see so much cancelled – though the cancellation of a track meet or the loss of a few innings of baseball pale in comparison to the losses felt throughout our community and the country as a whole. Schools were closed, jobs were lost, people got sick and many lost loved ones as a result of this virus.

And it’s not like organizers of the aforementioned events or sports seasons had much of a choice, anyway, considering gatherings were banned, among other safety restrictions that were put in place.

Even if there was a way – practically and financially – to hold a summer staple like the Canada Cup, the traditionally international field would have been awfully limited considering that borders were closed and lengthy quarantine processes were in place.

Same goes for the Tour de White Rock, which longtime observers know usually includes some of the top cycling teams from the U.S. and other countries, in addition to homegrown talent.

Sure, if you owned a bike and could still fit into spandex bike shorts by July – a big if for most of us that far into sheltering-in-place – you might’ve had a chance to land on the podium this year, but I think I speak for all Semiahmoo Peninsula sports fans in saying that we’re probably better off not having witnessed such an endeavour.

There’s always next year, though.

Perhaps owing to the fact that we mostly stayed inside – or close to home – this summer, the warm-weather months went relatively smoothly, as far as COVID-19 was concerned. Sure, my annual beer-league softball tournament and camping trip got cancelled – perhaps the greatest sports tragedy of the pandemic, objectively speaking – but things seemed like maybe, just maybe, they were improving.

Indoor pools and other facilities were still for the most part closed – leading many swim clubs to move to outdoor facilities across Surrey and beyond – but baseball teams like the White Rock Tritons, as well as various White Rock Renegades softball teams, did get back on the field, first just to practice before eventually being able to play a few games with other nearby teams in their cohort groups.

• READ ALSO: ‘The guys are excited’ says White Rock Tritons coach as baseball returns to field

Bayside Rugby Club wasn’t allowed to play their usual brand of tackle rugby, so they got creative and created an in-house touch league that was immensely popular – to the point that extra teams had to be added as they went.

The White Rock-South Surrey Titans football association, and the rest of the Vancouver Mainland Football League rivals, were also able to hit the field, albeit with an abundance of new rules in place.

They didn’t quite make it to season’s end before a new set of provincial health orders were put in place, effectively cutting things short by a few weeks, but in 2020, you take what you can get. Titans executive members told Peace Arch News they were grateful to be able to play this year at all, and I can relate.

As the person tasked with filling the sports pages of this newspaper every week, I was happy for every sports-related crumb I could get my hands on, because writing about return-to-play plans, provincial regulations and poring over pages of viaSport BC guidelines gets old fast.

And though I somehow managed to fill every sports section for the last nine months – I’m sure my trophy is arriving in the mail any day now – I still wrote more about COVID-19 this year than about every sport combined.

Things even got weird enough that I wrote an arts story – you may have seen it in our Dec. 24 edition – and after a quick scan through my personal archives, I can tell you that such an occurrence is about as rare as the appearance of the ‘Christmas Star’ – the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in our night sky – that had stargazers talking earlier this month.

Such a celestial event last occurred in the 17th century, and the last time it was visible at night was 1226. I can’t say for certain it’ll be 400 years before I write another arts story, but I don’t have any grand plans of unseating my colleague Alex Browne from that beat.

Getting back to sports, I will say that perhaps more than any other entity, the BC Hockey League might’ve got the shortest end of the shortest stick this year. The sports shutdown came just as the junior ‘A’ league was gearing up for the second round of playoffs – the Surrey Eagles were primed for a showdown with Coquitlam Express after a come-from-behind win over the Chilliwack Chiefs in the first round.

But alas, a championship was never handed out.

Wait ‘til next year, right?

The league seemed to be on its way to starting again this fall, but has been repeatedly delayed by the second-wave of COVID-19 and the provincial health orders that followed. Now, they’re hoping for a mid-January start, but a realistic timeline is still anyone’s guess.

But with all this doom and gloom dominating the year, it’s important to remember that there was actually a time when life was normal and sporting events – both locally and elsewhere – were held.

I know it seems like it was a hundred years ago – while simultaneously feeling like yesterday, somehow – but between January and the middle of March, things happened.

Members of the White Rock Divers earned spots at BC Winter Games, even though the event itself was later cancelled; the White Rock Whalers made the playoffs in the Pacific Junior Hockey League and head coach Jason Rogers was named the league’s coach of the year; and the star-powered Semiahmoo Totems senior girls basketball team ran roughshod over its competition, both in Surrey and beyond, winning the annual Surrey Fire Fighters Basketball Classic en route to another provincial championship.

Later in the year, three members of those Totems – Deja Lee, Izzy Forsyth and Tara Wallack – inked U.S. college scholarships. Having that many NCAA-bound players on a single team is unheard of in B.C., and serves as an important reminder that a few good things did in fact happen this year.

And back in May, Elgin Park teacher Lindsey Ellett decided, in the aftermath of the cancellation of the Vancouver Marathon, to run a marathon on her own. She embarked on a 42.2-km trek through the Semiahmoo Peninsula as her friends, family and colleagues cheered her on. Ellett’s colleague, Melissa Bonn, called the whole thing “very moving” while Ellett herself called it “a highlight in a downer of a year.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

So, what will happen next? Who knows.

I’ve never been good at making predictions and now seems like a poor time to try. I have no idea what the future holds, but I hope for better things – both in the sporting world and beyond.

In the meantime, I’ll be over here, waiting patiently for 2021. It’s all anyone can do.

Bleed the clock, decline the penalty, rag the puck – use whatever sports term you’d like – but just wait.

Finally, next year is just around the corner.

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While running a 42.2-km marathon distance through South Surrey and Cloverdale earlier this year, Elgin Park Secondary teacher Lindsey Ellett received support from her colleagues, many of whom lined the route to cheer her on. (Contributed photo)

While running a 42.2-km marathon distance through South Surrey and Cloverdale earlier this year, Elgin Park Secondary teacher Lindsey Ellett received support from her colleagues, many of whom lined the route to cheer her on. (Contributed photo)

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